Cinema Review: Apollo 18
Currently on General Release at UK Cinemas.
In the wake of ‘shockumentary’ films such as Quarantine and Paranormal Activity, audiences have been left saturated with movies ‘based on reality.’ Now the genre has moved into Space with the offering of Apollo 18. With no-one fooled, the film claims to contain footage found from the scrapped Apollo 18 mission. Whilst the tagline “There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon,” is a strong one, here’s hoping the film execs decide not to revisit this idea.
The story follows three astronauts: Commander Nathan (Nate) Walker, Lieutenant Colonel John Grey and Captain Benjamin Anderson, as they head to the moon to spy on possible Russian attacks. Whilst Nate and Anderson are on the moon’s surface, Grey is left to bob around and watch the disaster unfold. It isn’t long before the group realise they are not alone and strange things start to happen. By using the idea of a moving rock sample (which does not seem that scary), the film’s tension begins to build.
This is an all out American corn fest – expect plenty of not so witty one liners, spaceships called ‘Freedom,’ and ‘Liberty’ and messages recorded from loved ones at home. The first half of the film creates the assumption that Russians are the bad guys, trying to steal America’s thunder in the Space Race. The discovery of a trashed Russian lander, filled with blood, soon changes the pace of the film and there are some genuinely tense moments. Nate’s descent into a pitch black moon crater, in search of the Russian astronaut, is a high of the film. Clearly he ignored his mother’s advice “Never go into moon craters on your own.”
The second half picks up a lot more, though if Ridley Scott was watching, he may be arranging his team of lawyers. Without giving too much away, the film attempts to copy John Hurt’s iconic scene from Alien, and whilst it is scary enough…..it’s something we’ve all seen it before. Cue lots of falling over, mumbled speech and talk of ‘infection.’ Get used to shaky camera work that would look at home on You’ve Been Framed and prepare a sick bag to cope with the motion sickness. However, it must be said that the constant change of cameras does kick up the pace of the film and keeps you wondering what is going on.
Apollo 18 tries very hard to be Paranormal Activity, even copying various scenes; sadly the film proves that just because you have a winning formula, taking it somewhere new does not guarantee success. The laborious build up of two pretty boring characters drags this movie down. It is unclear whether the studio couldn’t be bothered to pay any more actors but a larger ensemble cast was definitely needed. Unfortunately for John Grey, he becomes the Michael Collins of the group, (who you may cry?) and spends the entirety of the film floating around not doing a lot.
For anyone who wants to know who the characters are, you will definitely need to Google them afterwards as they are simply macho American stereotypes that pale in comparison to the outer space superheroes we are used to. Apollo 18 is screaming for more character development and an Ellen Ripley to burst in. On the whole, this film would be new and original in the post Blair Witch era but, it is blatantly clear that the studios are running out of ideas.
Do yourself a favour and spend 90 minutes watching old moon footage – you may learn more and it is about as entertaining.
FMV Rating: *½